Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Ghost Turkey

The ghost turkey has been present around the sanctuary for two weeks now.  It was first seen on the morning of April 17.  After shaking off the shock and awe, I managed to get a few pictures of this extraordinary bird before it had disappeared behind the naturalist's cottage.



A lot of emails were sent with the preceding photos attached to various persons who may be interested in seeing such an interesting bird.  Despite being in the field a lot, and seeing turkeys quite often, no one on the sanctuary staff had ever seen this particular bird before.  So where did it come from?  How could we have missed a bright white turkey walking in the forest?  Is this really a wild turkey?

Well, at first, we really weren't sure.  It's size and proportions were consistent with that of a typical female wild turkey.  Obviously, it's coloration is not.

It's behavior was consistent with the turkeys we often see moving around the museum and naturalist's cottage - bold enough to wander into the yard and near the buildings, but highly cautious and ready to bolt at the slightest notion of danger.  How could it not be a wild turkey?

It was a week later before we saw the ghost turkey again.  Amazingly, not one visitor had reported seeing the turkey during the previous week.  Where did it go?  How could it possibly remain out of sight?

The third time was a charm.  We saw the ghost turkey for a third time on Thurs, April 29.  When I say we, I mean myself and a group of 20 adults and children from Mount Kisco Elementary.  The ghost turkey, initially frightened by us, eventually walked within 5 feet of our group en route to the bird feeders set up in the meadow near the museum.  Not a wild turkey.

I searched the internet in hopes of finding a wild turkey with the same coloration and pattern after the intial encounter.  There was no evidence of a wild turkey with the same ghostly appearance.

With a little luck, I was able to find an exact match...domestic turkey.  Royal palm turkey (hen).

Photo taken from FeatherSite.com

According to FeatherSite.com, the Royal Palm turkey is "...developed along ornamental lines" and "...can be high strung but are thrifty and can fend for themselves".  Their description of standard weights is very similar to what can be expected of wild turkeys.

So its not a wild turkey and we didn't overlook it for the past couple months, but where did it come from?  We still don't know.  If you know of anyone in the Bedford/Mount Kisco, NY area that may have poultry and may be missing a Royal Palm turkey, please let us know.

So keep your eye out for the ghost turkey.  She's around, but you never know when she'll appear.  And enjoy it while it lasts, because she'll seemingly vanish into thin air...like a ghost turkey.

-Adam Zorn, Naturalist

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